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Pacific head of Air Force apologizes for cuts

By McClatchy News Service


WASHINGTON » While the automatic federal budget cuts have spurred a blame game and little action in the nation's capital, in the Air Force's Pacific command, they've triggered an apology from the top man.

Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle, who leads the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, with bases in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea, sent an email last week to everyone who serves under his command lamenting the effects of the cuts. He cited the furlough of civilian military workers, in particular.

"It hurts me to say that after all our military has asked of our civilian employees and after their hard work and dedication, if the furlough is executed they will face 22 nonconsecutive unpaid, nonduty days during the furlough period between 21 April and 21 September," Carlisle wrote. "There is no other way to say it: This will have a significant financial impact on our civilians."

The furloughs, likely to begin next month, will mean the loss of one day of work each week until the end of September.

Carlisle said Air Force officials were "doing everything in their power to avoid a furlough, as it breaks faith with those who tirelessly strive to make our Air Force better."

Military leaders for the Army, Navy, Marines and Hawaii National Guard in Hawaii last week told state lawmakers that furloughs for Department of Defense employees in Hawaii could bring pay cuts of up to 20 percent and are expected to start in April. Civilian workers, legislators were told, could lose $24 million in wages this year. The military industry pumped $14.7 billion into the state economy in 2011, accounting for more than 102,000 jobs.

The Army, Navy and Air Force plan to cut spending by $500 million this year in the Pacific region, lawmakers were told.

Nationwide the loss in civilian military income in all military branches will total about $4.8 billion, with California and Virginia facing the most.

"While some actions are out of our hands, I promise to do everything in my power to maintain … readiness, mission focus and financial well-being," Carlisle wrote. "You are the Air Force's most important asset, and our country owes you a debt of gratitude for your service and sacrifice."

Carlisle said that because of the timing of the cuts — and the fact that some areas were fenced off from the budget knife — operations, maintenance and flying hours were being cut by 40 percent for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

"So bottom line, we'll have to do less with less," he wrote. "There will simply be some training events, operations and exercises that we won't be able to support."

The mandatory budget cuts, known as the sequester, will result in $85 billion in program reductions across the board, after Congress and the White House were unable to reach a deal by March 1 to prevent them.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of hyping the cuts — such as cutting back on White House tours — to score political points. Some voices in the debate have questioned whether the impact on defense will be as serious as administration officials have said it will be.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, recently referred to President Barack Obama as "Chicken Little" and labeled his arguments as fear-mongering.

"It's clear there will be some effect on readiness, but it's really hard to know exactly what the effects would be," said Jacob Stokes, a defense expert at the Center for a New American Security, a centrist research organization.

First Lt. AnnMarie Annicelli, a spokes­woman for the Pacific Air Forces, said that without a new budget deal, the command faced cuts of about $103 million. On an annual basis, and if the reductions were applied to the entire budget, that represents about a 10 percent reduction.

But because the cuts don't cover the entire budget — military personnel costs, for instance, are exempt — and because they come midway through the fiscal year, "it feels like 40 percent."

Annicelli said there would be some effect on achieving the command's goal of being able to "fight tonight," including the likelihood that pilots would get less vital flight training.

"With any reduction of flying hours, pilots will make heavy use of available simulators and academic training to maintain basic skills and knowledge of their aircraft," Annicelli said. But she added that the command's "ability to develop and deploy our airmen will be severely reduced."


Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report.

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what wrote:
This professional soldier has the decency to apologize for the cuts. How about our congress critters and our no-leadership President?
on March 12,2013 | 02:28AM
serious wrote:
This soldier is not up for reelection. The politicians are in the name game.
on March 12,2013 | 05:18AM
bender wrote:
The General should not be apologizing for what politicians have inflicted on this country, especially those Republican politicians serving in the US House of Representatives.
on March 12,2013 | 06:38AM
FWS wrote:
It is so sad that the mainstream media has been able to convince Americans that the evil GOP is causing all the trouble in DC. In basic terms, the GOP is trying to hold the line on taxes and reduce the size of our government, while the Democrats are attempting to raise taxes (and fees) in order to use that money to pay for more government programs--government programs that give people 'stuff' (services, financial aid, general support). It redistributes wealth from those who create it, to those who don't. By definition, what the Democrats want to do is socialist. I lived in a European socialist country before. The people there are taxed 50% of their income to pay for government services, and are required to pay another 10% for mandatory healthcare. A $40 take home for every $100 earned. Socialism works. But it's not the American way! In America, people can pursue their own happiness, not one of the government choosing.
on March 12,2013 | 11:04AM
pcman wrote:
People who believe the Repubs are responsible for the sequester are the "low information" people. Either they believe it because they don't know any better or they are drinking the Obama kool aid. They are the ones that caused the sequestration which Obama advocated in Aug 2011, over a year before the 2012 election. I agree with the general because if the "stuff" hits the fan after our adversaries decide to test Obama's intestinal fortitude, the general will have to depend on the civilians to return to work even on sequester furlough days. He has no control over the sequester days but he still has to lead the hollow air forces. I know the civilians will carry their load, pay or no pay.
on March 12,2013 | 11:37AM
FWS wrote:
I fear "low information" Americans might be so wrapped up in supersized sodas, new Galaxy phones, and reality TV, to even realize that America still has adversaries--many of them in fact. According to US census data, 54 percent of the American population was under the age of 17 when the Cold War ended in 1991. Since 1991, the mainstream media has focused almost exclusively on Middle Eastern conflicts, as though the rest of the world suddenly became a happy peaceful place. Based on such a world view, "low information" Americans might one day conclude that their tax money (and it is their tax money, not DC's tax money) would be better spent elsewhere, rather than on defense. I would hope that, at least those of us in Hawaii, would never forget the real cost of being ill prepared.
on March 12,2013 | 12:24PM
78R8R wrote:
Impeach Obama and get rid of seniority rights in congress. If no seniority rights exist, there is no harm in voting out useless self-serving politicians who have been there too long. Reduce their pensions and have them pay 100% of their healthcare. They aren't feeling any pain.
on March 13,2013 | 12:03AM
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